Big Surprise?

A smoking ban in Colorado lead to a sharp decrease in heart attacks.

A smoking ban in one Colorado city led to a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalizations within three years, a sign of just how serious a health threat secondhand smoke is, government researchers said Wednesday. The study, the longest-running of its kind, showed the rate of hospitalized cases dropped 41 percent in the three years after the ban of workplace smoking in Pueblo, Colo., took effect. There was no such drop in two neighboring areas, and researchers believe it’s a clear sign the ban was responsible.

The study suggests that secondhand smoke may be a terrible and under-recognized cause of heart attack deaths in this country, said one of its authors, Terry Pechacek of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least eight earlier studies have linked smoking bans to decreased heart attacks, but none ran as long as three years. The new study looked at heart attack hospitalizations for three years following the July 1, 2003 enactment of Pueblo’s ban, and found declines as great or greater than those in earlier research.

“This study is very dramatic,” said Dr. Michael Thun, a researcher with the American Cancer Society.

One can only wonder why cigarettes are still legal.

9 Responses

  1. You need to do a little more thorough analysis of the smoking-ban/heart miracle topic. There are a plethora of studies out there that make the claim that smoking bans are responsible for reductions in heart attacks and strokes, however, they are usually sloppily done; for instance, they sometimes don’t bother controlling for seasonal peaks and lulls in heart attacks, and don’t take into account the fact that heart attack rates are decreasing in general. Please check Dr. Michael Siegel’s blog ( to read critiques on these studies. A good place to start would be with these two postings:

    While it would be great if smoking bans did actually cause a decrease in heart attack rates, it is not ok to do sloppy research in order to substantiate the claim.

  2. I bet the assault/road rage rate increased.

  3. I’m about the make a post where I reference this. Apparently I didn’t respond to CMN. The study looked at a period of three years, not a particular season, so lulls are not relevant. Moreover, the general decrease is nowhere near 41%, making this statistically significant, to say the least. Besides that, the overall decrease corresponds with lower smoking rates and restricted places for smoking across the country, anyway.

    But I was the sloppy one.

  4. Heart attacks have been going down over the years. It is not due to smoking bans. You should check out Marlow’s latest research. You can find a link here:

  5. I don’t think you can dismiss smoking bans wholesale like that. Bans and other smoking cessation efforts lead to a decrease in smoking by way of making it less convenient and more stigmatizing to be a smoker. Given that there is such a strong link between heart attacks and smoking, we have to throw some credit that way – especially when we have stark results in similar communities, such as we saw in Colorado. Certainly there are other factors to consider, including better medical knowledge and technology, but that doesn’t give us leave to ignore other factors.

  6. Smoking rates have been basically plateauing since the 1990’s, to around 20% in western countries (except in Sweden, where they use snus instead, and as a result have the lowest rates of tobacco-related disease in any country where smoking was popularized). Most smoking bans are very recent, and in order for your claim that these bans lead to a decrease in smoking to be true, you’d have to actually see those decreases in smoking. Like i said, they have hovered around 20% for many years now. Most people (50%) of smokers quit in the decades following the 1965 Surgeon General’s report. That report unequivocally stated that smoking caused cancer, and that’s when the biggest quitting trend occurred.

  7. First, twenty years is a huge gap for you to dismiss. Second, your numbers are wrong.

    Self-reported adult smoking peaked [in the US] in 1954 at 45%, and remained at 40% or more through the early 1970s, but has since gradually declined. The average rate of smoking across the decades fell from 40% in the 1970s to 32% in the 1980s, 26% in the 1990s, and 24% since 2000.

    Those numbers have dropped to your 20% since then.

  8. Nothing about that site contradicted what I said. Look at the last 20 years compared to the drastic reduction before those years.

  9. I see a significant reduction over the past 20 years. You can deny it up and down, but it’s there clear as day. Smoking has been decreasing. In fact, let’s go to the Gallup summary:

    Smoking rates have been coming down for about the past quarter century, and recent Gallup polling suggests they have continued to drop in just the past few years. About one in five Americans today say they smoke cigarettes, down from about one in four at the start of the decade.

    I don’t see why you’re so set on denying such basic facts. Efforts to decrease smoking, to stigmatize it, and to tax the hell out of it have led to lower rates of smoking. Furthermore, since we know smoking is so strongly connected to so many illnesses, we can credit any decrease to the smoking cessation efforts (any increase or plateauing in these illnesses can factually said to be worse without smoking cessation efforts).

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